Cesar Chavez's Rabid Opposition to Illegal Immigration Not Covered in New Movie

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Cesar Chavez
Moviegoers who see "Cesar Chavez" when it opens today can expect a feel-good flick that portrays the Yuma-born legend as almost saintly.

The movie doesn't enlighten viewers about Chavez's intense opposition to "illegals" and "wets," as he called undocumented immigrants.

You may have heard that Chavez preached against illegal immigration, but "The Crusades of Cesar Chavez" by Miriam Pawel, a new book released in timely fashion this month by Bloomsbury Press, has the iconic Hispanic hero sounding at times like a typical nativist bigot and acting like a right-wing militia member.

See also:
-Yes We Can! (Make Better Biopics than Cesar Chavez)

As the comprehensive book reveals, Chavez's battle against illegal immigration and the undocumented immigrants themselves was one of his fundamental strategies in organizing farm workers.

After his success in organizing laborers and creating public awareness of horrific work conditions, by 1973 Chavez's United Farm Workers union was broke. The activists were desperate to keep support high for its boycott of grapes and lettuce.

Chavez "seized on immigrants as the latest explanation for why the union could not win a strike," Pawel writes.

With the help of UFW co-founder Dolores Huerta, Chavez launched the "Illegals Campaign," which he believed was nearly as important as the boycott. He criticized President Nixon and the Border Patrol for letting in so many "wets," as he called them.

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Miriam Pawel
Under the campaign, he turned the UFW into an anti-illegal-immigrant spying organization. Union volunteers became dedicated to finding and identifying undocumented immigrants working on farms -- as well as those giving them aid and comfort. The information was turned over to the feds. While doing yoga "standing on his head," Pawel writes, Chavez gave 19-year-old Liza Hirsch the job of heading up the Illegals Campaign.

"Hirsch distributed forms printed in triplicate to all union offices and directed staff members to document the presence of illegal immigrants in the fields and report them to the INS," the books states.

Chavez believed that the campaign would help his supporters explain to the public why the boycott against grapes and lettuce wasn't effective: Farmers were hiring illegal workers who didn't care about the strikes or boycott.

A favorite line of Chavez's was, "If we can get the illegals out of California, we will win the strike overnight."

Chavez's "liberal allies" and Chicano activists didn't agree with the tactic. But Chavez clung resolutely to his beliefs, breaking ties with affiliated groups who wouldn't go along. His stubbornness resulted in mutinies, with some UFW field offices "refusing to cooperate" in tracking the undocumented workers.

Huerta supported the Illegals Campaign, but suggested Chavez should tone down the rhetoric. Some people find the terms "illegals" and "wetback" offensive, she reminded him.

"Chavez turned on Huerta angrily," the book says. "'No, a spade's a spade,' he said. 'You guys get these hang-ups. Goddamn it, how do we build a union? They're wets, you know. They're wets, and let's go after them."

Huerta didn't return calls from the Phoenix New Times this week.



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15 comments
Electrica
Electrica

Some prick wants to change his name to Ceasar Javez and get elected. FIGURES. WHY IS EVERYTHING A CARTOON HERE? A prick changes his name to Ceasar Javez and people ask him for autographs. I would love to know what shill assholes paid ten dollars for a fake person's autograph?

robert_graham
robert_graham

Of course Chavez was against illegal immigration. If he were alive today he would present Sheriff Joe with a medal.

tigersyd
tigersyd

This is a method of sociological division  The historical homogenous media of a time--today, played Mexicans against Mexican Americans, and even against Indigenous Americans.  The longer a peoples history, geography, and culture are denied, then oppression is the thief--playing them against each other!  Historically, a family member would read the newspaper headline on how bad Mexicans were, even though their family was from New Mexico, and she too was a Mexican American.  How sad a border that was forced and imposed, and some forget we are all prima's and primo's of God!  How all humanity matters, and if they come for them, then they will come for you!  Viva Los Latinos!  Viva humanity!  Paz, amor, y entiendo!

bornineastla
bornineastla

what an uncle juan! he'd probably be an arpaio fan!

armandocdll81
armandocdll81

Get with the program, Cesar. Flooding any labor market - especially a depressed one - with millions and millions of illiterate birth-control-challened indigents is always good for wages, living conditions and environmental sustainability. 

azwillie
azwillie

Illegal aliens hurt legal hispanics more than any other group. It is really strange how they will help their " cousins " sneak into the country and help them get false ID only for the " cousin " to take a job away from legal hispanic. Especially on the entry level jobs where there is a high turnover anyway.


When they help their " cousins " invade the U.S. they are hurting themselves because there is only so big a market for their < usually > unskilled labor.

car_del99
car_del99

When was the last time the union had a vote to choose its leaders ?

They pass the leadership from one to the other without anyone voting. Just like a feudal system...

thephnxman
thephnxman

@tigersyd:   You are making a HUGE mistake by trying to tie Americans to the Mexican population.  There is no such thing as a "Mexican-American.  They are either Mexicans, or we are Americans.   Our mothers did not open their legs at the border, on leg on the Mexican side, and the other on the American side and just "drop us"!  Don't be foolish.  

I am an American, and I have felt the racism of the Mexicans...just because I was born in the U.S.   Mexicans have been betrayed by their own government, and they have been deceived into thinking that the southwest is theirs: they are ignorant tools of both sides of the border.   Because of their ignorance and greed, they are being used to disrupt the rights of the citizens in the U.S., for the Corporate Greedsters to shred the Constitution!


Callate, pendejo!

soulalibi
soulalibi

@tigersyd Chavez wasn't against Indigenous Peoples of the U.S. and he had no reason to be either. Since he himself is something of 50%-25% of Amerindian. His life's quarrels were primarily focused on "illegals" and "wets" who were making living and working conditions for Mexican-Americans more miserable. Farm bosses exploited that. From my American perspective, I can't blame Chavez for his cause. He fought a tough battle. He fought for Mexican-Americans whose family have deep roots on the American side of soil dating back generations before the height of illegal immigration in the 1980's.

thephnxman
thephnxman

@bornineastla:  If Arpaio did just ONE THING right, it was to arrest and deport the ILLEGALS.   They (the illegals) have done more to help this corrupt government: and in doing so have hindered us from correcting the many problems associated with that corruption!

silvrback
silvrback

@azwillie  


Are you native American? or are you "white" how did your ancestors get here?

 because if any of you are not natives, what the fuck are you yapping about, just shut the fuck up with the sense of entitlement "Go Back" get out of my country" "I'm an American" fucking stupid.


........The European settlers found this place running, hiding from an oppressor government, then in time they build up courage and resources to fight to freed them selves from that government, 

and for what?

to turn around and oppress their women the "red skins"(natives), the yellows (Asian miners), the black (slaves), the browns Mexican immigrants, Irish Immigrants, Italian immigrants and any other foreigner that dared dream to come to this grate Nation with no name, 

Because "America" is this continent, that we are all from Canada, the United States, The United States of Mexico, central and South America some of these other countries  are also "united states", and we are all Americans, from different countries within "America"  so quit your  bitchin, yes its bad to come here illegally (but some times its the only way) and just like everyone else here, you have Obligations & responsibilities to the community, the town, the city, the state and the country that you decided to live in.  

Electrica
Electrica

@thephnxman @bornineastla Joe Arpaio is indeed a miracle. He is the old west meets the new west. And he stands alone in his ability. Joe is a phenomenon. 

Electrica
Electrica

@thephnxman @bornineastla It would be nice if they could just sort out the good people from the bad people...but hey, that would mean deporting a lot of politicians to Mexico.

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